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First private bridge weight limit signs go up in CK Fire
After much heated debate and several meetings filled with discussion, firefighters in the Central Kitsap Fire District have placed the first weight limit signs on a privately-owned bridge in the district.
The sign placement comes as a part of a new policy that was adopted by the CK Fire & Rescue board of commissioners this past September.
The “limited access roadways, bridges and culverts policy” calls for private property owners with bridges and culverts that are more than 24 inches in diameter to have them inspected to determine that they can hold the weight of large department vehicles, including trucks up to 60,000 pounds.
If they are deemed secure by a licensed structural engineer, the fire department will post that and trucks will cross when emergencies happen.
If not, fire department officials will do their best to fight fires and respond to emergencies on foot or with lighter weight vehicles.
At the time the policy was debated, the district had identified 91 bridges and 44 culverts that needed inspecting. More than 200 property owners in Central Kitsap were affected.
On Thursday of last week, crews from the fire district placed their first sign on Turnstone Lane in Seabeck according to Ileana LiMarzi, Public Information Officer, Central Kitsap Fire & Rescue.
The signs are being placed by the fire district after receiving the proper paperwork from the property owner that verifies that the bridge or culvert has been inspected and passed that inspection as to the weight it can hold.
The reason for that, according to Lt. Matt Porter, who has been in charge of administering the policy change, is so that the district knows that the weight limit signs that are placed are legitimate. They are the property of the fire district and will be removed if the property owner doesn’t submit new inspection reports on a regular basis, he said.
Fire district commissioners said during the process that they were not willing to risk the lives of the districts crews or the equipment to cross bridges and culverts that could collapse as has happened in neighboring areas.
They said as good stewards of the taxpayers dollars, it was just too much of a risk.
Replacement cost of a single fire truck can be upward of half a million dollars, district officials reported.
There are another two completed engineering reports on private bridges and culverts that have been received by the fire district and once reviewed, signs will be placed at those locations. Each sign costs the district about $20.
Throughout the debate about the policy, several private property owners express their concerns and told commissioners that the inspections can cost up to $20,000 depending on the size of the bridge or culvert in question and how in-depth the inspection needed to be.
They said as private citizens, that was considered to be too extreme, and they asked for help from either the Kitsap County planning or public works departments to complete that work.
But commissioners said that couldn’t happen because county employees cannot spend their time working on private bridges or private property.
Many property owners said they were disappointed and feared that they would not be able to afford the inspections by licensed engineers.
They also feared they could lose their homeowners insurance if word got out that the fire district would not respond to their location due to a bridge that was not inspected and that did not carry the proper weight limit sign.
Other fire districts in the area are now considering similar policies.